It’s FACEBOOK, not FACTBook

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Three of my Republican friends AND a relative posted the above meme on Facebook over the past week.  It is a misleading factoid with the purpose of “proving” that restrictive gun laws will destroy the United States of America.

This meme was created in an effort to discredit President Obama’s proposed gun control laws, and suggests that the President’s proposed legislation is trying to remove guns from the hands of  citizens who abide by the law and deserve to have them, which is, in and of itself a lie.  He isn’t trying to do that.  Has never suggested that and has not produced any legislation that would affect it.  That is simply not what he is trying to do.  The claim is a lie propagated by Donald Trump and his followers.

The meme further suggests misleading “facts” about both countries.  Well, folks, the meme is simply a lie.  However, before I go into that, here is the entire plan to more closely regulate the sales of guns.  Read it, and show me ANY part that promotes removing guns from the American public!  That is an unfair rumor generated by the right, exaggerated by Donald Trump and absorbed by his redneck, gun-lovin’ demographic.

 

White House

On Jan. 5, 2016, President Obama unveiled his new strategy to curb gun violence in America. His proposals focus on new background check requirements that will enhance the effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and greater education and enforcement efforts of existing laws at the state level.

This video shows a man confronting the President about the gun control situation, so you can hear for yourself what it is REALLY about.  In fact, Donald Trump obviously watched this video, because he has suddenly changed his tune and is proposing the EXACT same thing to the NRA!

The plan:

  • Directs the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to require any business that engages in the sale of guns to obtain a federal license to do so and conduct background checks.  This requirement applies to gun stores, sellers of guns at gun shows, and sellers of guns over the Internet. The licensing requirement applies to all sellers “engaged in the business” of selling guns, regardless of how frequent or how many sales there are. Failure to obtain a license to sell will carry criminal penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  Failure to conduct a required background check will also carry penalties.
  • Requires the ATF Bureau to issue a rule requiring background checks for purchasers of certain dangerous firearms and other items who purchase them through a trust, corporation or other legal entity. It will also issue a rule clarifying that gun dealers/licensees who ship firearms have the responsibility to notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit.
  • Encourages greater communications between federal and state authorities on criminal history information. The Obama administration seeks to increase the dialog with states to ensure the background check system is as comprehensive as it can be.
  • Instructs the FBI to overhaul the background check system to make it more efficient and accurate. Improvements include increasing personnel by 50 percent, modernize NICS to allow for background checks to be processed 24/7 and permit better notification of state and local authorities when certain prohibited persons attempt to buy a gun.
  • Calls for increased funding to ATF for the hiring of 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce existing gun laws. ATF is also directed to establish an Internet Investigation Center with dedicated personnel to track illegal online firearms trafficking. The plan dedicates $4 million to and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
  • Asks the attorney general to encourage federal U.S. attorneys to work with state and local authorities and groups to increase prevention of domestic violence and to prevent prohibited persons from obtaining firearms.
  • Proposes a $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce. The Department of Health and Human Services will finalize a rule removing legal barriers preventing states from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.
  • Requires inclusion of mental health information from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm. To this end. SSA will issue a rule to ensure that this information is reported to NICS. This rule will also include a waiver provision available to people seeking relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm because of mental health reasons. Further details will be available upon issuance of this rule.
  • Directs the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology that would reduce the likelihood of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of a firearm. Requires that a strategy for real-world deployment of this technology be prepared within 90 days.
  • Calls upon state attorneys general to focus resources on eliminating the most dangerous and impactful cases in illegal gun trafficking, and violent offenders who bypass the background check system and purchase guns illegally.
  • Removes certain legal barriers preventing states from reporting information to NICS. HHS has been directed to clarify through a rule that certain Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act covered entities are permitted to provide limited demographic and other necessary information about people with mental illness who are prohibited from possessing a firearm to the NICS.

Now, about the meme:

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First, we have  Honduras. 8.2 million people live in that country .  The meme claims the Honduras a government “bans citizens from owning guns, ” and that  Honduras has “the highest homicide rate in the entire world.”.  THEN, it points out that similarly populated Switzerland, which “requires citizens to own guns” and has the “lowest homicide rate in the entire world.”  The first flaw in the meme is that it suggests that POPULATION is the only consistent factor that justifies the comparison between the two countries; violence and gun policy.  However, many, many other factors come into play.

Even though Switzerland and Honduras are  ranked number 96 and 94  on the CIA’s list of countries by population, the metric alone is far from sufficient reason to compare the effect of different gun control laws in either one.  Here is why.

The two countries have completely different demographics. Switzerland is an affluent country that is located in a very civilized western region of Europe.  Honduras, on the other hand, has a much lower income factor and is plagued by corruption and violence that have to do with human trafficking, gangs and the drug trade.  In other words, comparing the two countries is tantamount to comparing apples with oranges, and does not yield an accurate assessment.

According to David Hemenway, the person who directs the Harvard Injury Control Research Center at the Harvard School of Public Health, in order to discover an accurate metric, a comparison should be made between countries where things such as demographics, income levels, education and everything else is basically the same before a determination can be made about whether guns and the laws governing them have any effect.  So, in other words, it would be like comparing a country that has legless people who wear blue uniforms, to a country that has champion racers who wear red uniforms, and saying that latter wins more races because of the red uniforms.  Apples and oranges.

 

Dr. Hemenway stated,  “Switzerland and Honduras are not even close to being the same in many aspects of their society that will influence the levels of violence and homicide.”

The post fails to take into account huge numbers of cultural, political and socioeconomic factors that play into the effectiveness of gun violence, or a lack thereof. Honduras has a gross domestic product per capita of $2435, compared to $84733 in Switzerland.  (These numbers are substantiated HERE.)

Christopher Mikton, who is technical officer for violence prevention  the World Health Organization points out that while gun laws may be one among MANY determinants of homicide rates, pointing to them as the sole cause is incorrect and misleading.

A Swiss-based research project  reveals that while it is accurate to state that Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world, the majority (approximately 80%) of those homicides are linked to guns.  Gun-related homicides happen most frequently in areas along the Atlantic coast and in Honduras’ urban centers.  This suggests that the violence is linked to the prevailing patterns of drug trafficking in the area, and the gangs that exist in the vicinity.  Similarly related gun killings occur in Honduras’ urban centers.

The meme names Switzerland as having the lowest homicide rates, which simply is not true. In fact, the countries with the very lowest homicide rates have  very strict gun laws. Several countries — including Japan and Singapore, as well as Iceland and Luxembourg — posted lower rates than Switzerland in either one or both of the UN and WHO data sets. so uh oh….

Furthermore, Honduras does NOT  “ban” its citizens from owning guns.

The most  popular gun in Honduras is the 9mm handgun, “which can be legally purchased and owned.”  This undermined the meme’s claim that Honduran citizens cannot own guns. Because this weapon is banned in nearby Mexico, the UN has said the difference in laws fosters the exchange of illegal weapons between the countries.  In fact, An analysis  of gun laws in six Latin American countries, conducted by  by Insight Crime, a foundation that studies crime and policy in Central America, characterizes Honduras’ regulations as “light” compared to the “restrictive” laws of Brazil and Mexico and “moderate” laws of Venezuela and Chile. Uruguay also has “light” gun control laws but an incredibly smaller homicide rate than Honduras of about 5.9 percent per 100,000 people. (It also has less organized crime.)  The  Insight Crime analysis found that the disparity in homicide rates and gun control laws showed “gun legislation, on its own, means little in terms of gun violence.”

According to Punditfact, a nonpartisan fact checking organization, citizens of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA own more guns per capita, than any other country, followed by Yemen, then Switzerland.  Honduras ranks number 88.

A 2012 Time story about Switzerland’s gun culture notes how citizens hold their right to own guns as a patriotic duty, and Swiss children often join sharpshooting groups to hone their skills.  However, Switzerland does not REQUIRE “citizens to own guns.”

The government issues a gun to men for their mandatory military service, but the gun is taken home under “carefully controlled conditions without ammunition,” according to World Health Organization officer  Mikton, who is also Swiss.  He stated, “As soon as they have finished their military service — typically around 30 years of age — they have to return the gun,”.  This is quite a different picture than that painted by the meme. Isn’t it?

Swiss gun laws are more strict than the post implies, though less tough than some other European Union countries. Swiss law requires mandatory background checks on civilian handgun purchases and licenses for the concealed carry of weapons, and it bans automatic weapons. This is what our President also proposes.

Politifact, another nonpartisan FACT checking organization that SUBSTANTIATES EVERY WORD IT PRINTS, rated the meme as a “Pants on Fire” lie.  The meme makes an attempt to alarm readers with a counter intuitive implication, which is that gun laws can lead to deadly, unintended consequences.  However, as demonstrated, the meme is flawed on a number of levels that will not be picked up by the largely uneducated Donald Trump demographic.

“The comparison based on similar population size alone is shallow, and non-scientific. Moreover, Switzerland does not have the world’s lowest homicide level, and the post is flatly wrong about the laws in each country.”

 

 

 

 

 

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